Being in a position to help young adults reach their educational and professional goals has become a calling for Carson City residents Robert and Penny Waters.
For two years, the retired couple has been making a huge difference in the lives of students in Western Nevada Collegeâ€™s State Peace Officer Academy, a 30-credit program that prepares students for careers in law enforcement. In each of the past two years, they have provided a student with a $9,000 scholarship. Their generosity will continue indefinitely, the couple says.
â€œIâ€™m really thankful that weâ€™re in a position to help these kids out,â€ Robert Waters said. â€œWe made it a requirement that it go to someone that really needs it … someone who might be a single parent or whatever the reason may be.â€
Robert began his professional career as a police officer, working in several California cities before transitioning to employment in the private sector. He worked in casino security and management, followed by an investigative position with the state of Nevada for 25 years.
Procedures have definitely changed from when Robert was a rookie police officer in California.
â€œIn my time, it was like the Wild West compared to these days,â€ he said. â€œThey did a background check and then you were given a car, a badge and a gun. It was kind of scary. It was six months before they sent me to the academy. Itâ€™s nowhere comparable to what (the cadets) go through now.â€
The Bob and Penny Waters POST endowment provides a full scholarship to the academy for a cadet each year, said Katie Leao, director of development at WNC.
â€œIt will enable the Waters family to leave a legacy at WNC while providing cadets the benefits of reaching their educational and career goals,â€ she said.
Robert said that since he and his wife started the scholarship, he has made it a point to keep up with the recipients, Nathan Cooper (2013) and Jesus Lopez-Torres (2014). Robert attended Lopez-Torresâ€™ graduation last spring and would have attended Cooperâ€™s graduation ceremony if not for tending to a family matter.
â€œI like to follow up with them and see how they are doing,â€ said Robert, who has met with Cooper before and after his graduation. Cooper is now working for the Lyon County Sheriffâ€™s Department.
Meanwhile, Lopez-Torres has been busy applying for employment with the Carson City Sheriffâ€™s Office Reserve Program and Nevada Department of Corrections.
â€œThese wonderful folks, Bob and Penny Waters, were highly instrumental in helping out the most needy of our students who applied for financial aid,â€ said Katie Durbin, coordinator of WNCâ€™s State Peace Officer Academy.
Lopez-Torres said that he likely would have needed to wait at least a year to attend the academy without the scholarship provided by Robert and Penny.
â€œAt the time, I was struggling a lot financially; I had gotten into a car accident, and I had a major debt,â€ said Lopez-Torres, who has a young son. â€œI applied for the scholarship, and I was surprised that I got it. I really got to focus on what was important, which was the material at the time. I was really grateful for it.
â€œI hope to keep in contact with him as far as Iâ€™m going in law enforcement,â€ Lopez-Torres said. â€œThey are the nicest people Iâ€™ve ever met. I can compare with what I was going through at the time with Robertâ€™s experiences. It was very difficult and one of the hardest things Iâ€™ve ever done in my life.â€
In retirement, the Waters have been able to pursue some other passions while dividing time between Carson City and Las Vegas. Robert has written a book based on a case that went unresolved when he was a new officer on the street. The book, titled â€œThe Case That Wouldnâ€™t Close,â€ may one day have a sequel, as Robert is working on the project.
â€œThatâ€™s my big thing. I really enjoy it and really found something in it,â€ Robert said.
Penny, meanwhile, now has time in retirement to make jewelry that she sells locally. â€œWe both have something to keep us active,â€ Robert said.
Leao said that the college is also benefiting from knowing the couple. “The Waters are a great addition to the Western Nevada College family, and the Foundation is grateful for their commitment to our students.”